Proposals for a Uniform Missionary Alphabet

For other versions of this work, see Proposals for a Missionary Alphabet.
Proposals for a Uniform Missionary Alphabet (1853)
by Friedrich Max Müller
4555565Proposals for a Uniform Missionary Alphabet1853Friedrich Max Müller


PROPOSALS

FOR

A UNIFORM MISSIONARY ALPHABET.


The want of a standard system of orthography has been experienced by all persons engaged in the study of languages, whether written or unwritten. The philologist, the historian, the geographer, and more than all the missionary,—the messenger of the Gospel to all nations of the world,—have been harassed in their labours by the diversity of alphabets; and the difficulties arising from it have been second only to those arising from the diversity of language, which St. Augustin called the chief barrier in the establishment of the Civitas Dei, and Humboldt the great impediment in the realisation of the idea of Humanity.

Whatever may be thought of the practicability of finally supplanting all the existing alphabets of the world by one uniform system of writing, it surely is our duty, and a sacred duty for the members and directors of Missionary Societies, not to increase the existing diversity, but to do all in their power in preparing the way for the accomplishment of that highest, though as yet indefinite, aim of society toward which Christianity has been struggling from the very first.


For the practical solution of the problem, "How to establish one uniform system of writing which shall be acceptable to the scholar,

convenient to the missionary, and easy for the printer," we must consider three points:—

I. Which are the principal sounds that can be formed with our organs of speech, and therefore may be expected to exist in any of the dead or living dialects of mankind?

This is a physiological question.

II. How can these principal sounds, after proper classification, be expressed by us in writing and printing so as to preserve their physiological value, without creating any new typographical difficulties?

This is a practical question.

III. How can this physiological alphabet be applied to existing languages, and

a. to unwritten dialects;
This depends on a good ear.

b. to written dialects;
This depends on philological research.

Coroll. III. a. In the application of the physiological alphabet to languages not yet fixed by writing, the missionary should be guided entirely by his ear, without paying any regard to etymological considerations.

III. b. In transcribing languages which have an historical orthography, and where, for reasons best known to the archæologist, one sign may represent different sounds, and one sound be expressed by different signs, new and quite distinct questions are involved which can be solved only by archæological and philological research. We shall, therefore, discuss this part (III. b.) separately, and distinguish it by the name of "Transliteration," from the usual method of "transcribing" as applied to unwritten tongues.

I.

Which are the principal Sounds that can be formed with our Organs of Speech, and therefore may be expected to occur in any of the dead or living Dialects of Mankind?

On the first point, which must form the basis for all the rest, we have the immense advantage that all scholars who have written on it have arrived at almost identically the same results.[1] We are here still in the sphere of physical science, where facts are arranged by observation, and observation may be checked by facts so as to exclude individual impressions and national prejudices. The classification of vowels and consonants proposed by Professor Lepsius is, as far as general principles are concerned, exactly the same as the one contained in Sanskrit grammars composed in the fifth century before Christ, and appended to the different collections of the sacred writings of the Brahmans,—the four Vedas. These grammatical treatises, called "Prâtisâkhyas," exist in manuscript only, and have not been published as yet. The classification, therefore, proposed by Professor Lepsius could not have received a more striking confirmation than by a translation of these treatises, now more than two thousand years old. But these phonetic treatises deserve to be published on their own account also. Their observations are derived from a language (the Vaidik Sanskrit) which at that time was studied by means of oral tradition only, and where, in the absence of a written alphabet, all the most minute differences of pronunciation had to be watched by the ear, and to be explained and described to the pupil. The language itself, the Sanskrit of that early period, had suffered less from the influence of phonetic corruption than any tongue from which we can derive our observations; nay, the science of phonetics (Sikshâ), essential to the young theological student, who was not allowed to learn the Veda from MSS., had been reduced to a more perfect system in the schools of the Brahmans, in the fifth century before Christ, than anywhere since. Our notions on the early civilisation of the East are of so abstract a nature that we must expect to be startled occasionally by facts like these.

Consonants and Vowels.

If we regard the vowels as a continuous stream of air, emitted as breath from the lungs and changed into sound as it leaves the larynx, we may look upon the consonants as a number of stops opposing for a moment the free passage of this vocal stream after it has left the larynx and before it reaches the open air. These consonantal stops, against which the waves of the vowels break themselves more or less distinctly, are produced by barriers formed by the contact between the tongue, throat, palate, teeth, and lips.

Consonants.

Gutturals, Dentals, and Labials.

According to an observation which we find already in Vaidik grammars, the principal consonantal sounds in any language are:—

the guttural (k),
the dental (t),
the labial (p).

The pure guttural sound, without any regard as yet to its modifications (whether tenuis, media, aspirata, nasalis, semi-vocalis, or sibilans), is produced by stopping the stream of sound by means of a contact between the root of the tongue and the throat. The throat is called the "place," the root of the tongue the "instrument," of the guttural.

The pure dental sound is produced by contact between tongue and teeth. Here the teeth are called the "place," and the tip of the tongue the "instrument."

The pure labial sound is produced by contact between the upper and lower lip; the upper lip being the "place," the lower the "instrument."

All consonants, excluding semi-vowels and sibilants, are formed by a complete contact between "place" and "instrument."

Formation of the Tenuis.

If the vocal breathing is stopped sharp by the contact of the organs, so as to allow for the moment no consonantal sound or tone to escape, the consonant is called tenuis (ψιλόν), hard or surd (k, t, p).

Formation of the Media.

If the vocal breathing is stopped less abruptly, so as to allow a kind of consonantal sound to continue after the first contact has taken place, the consonant is called media (μέσον), soft or sonant (g, d, b). The soft consonant does not arrest the sound at once, but mingles with it during a moment of resistance.

Formation of Semi-vowels.

If there is only an approach or a very slight contact between the organs, and the vocal breathing is slightly stopped as it reaches the point of contact, the consonants are called half-consonants or semi-vowels. They are sonant like the media, owing to the process of their formation here described (h, l, w).

At the end of words and before a tenuis the semi-vowels become frequently evanescent. The guttural semi-vowel is heard distinctly at the end of the German word "hoch;" but it is lost in the English "high," though still heard in Scotland. The same applies to "nacht" and "night," French "sou" instead of "sol," and "vaut" instead of "valet." In Sanskrit no semi-vowel is tolerated at the end of words or before a tenuis.

Formation of Sibilants (flatus).

If there is no contact at all, and the vocal breathing passes really through, without being checked when it reaches that point of contact where guttural, dental, and labial consonants are formed, we get the three sibilants, or the "winds," as they are more properly called by Hindu grammarians. These are, the pure breathing, spiritus asper and lenis (ʽ and ʼ) for the gutturals, the sharp and soft s for the dentals, and the sharp and soft f for the labials. The sibilants or flatus are distinguished from all other consonants by this, that with them a breathing is really emitted, while the consonants are only so many stops which preclude the emission of vocal sound. A candle applied to the mouth will at once show the difference between the spiritus asper, as in "hard," and the consonantal stops, such as k, g, n, or even the guttural semi-vowel, as heard in "loch." In this respect the sibilant flatus approaches nearer to the vowels than even the semi-vowels.

As we distinguished between tenuis and media in the consonants, we must admit a twofold intonation for the flatus or the sibilants also. A flatus or spiritus cannot be modified exactly in the same manner as a consonant produced by contact; but, by an analogous process, it may become either "asper" or "lenis," sharp or soft. We are best acquainted with this distinction in the guttural, or hardly guttural, flatus at the beginning of words. The spiritus asper and lenis in Greek are modifications of that initial breathing which is inherent in every vowel sound at the beginning of a word or of a syllable. It comes out free as the spiritus asper in Homer and hiss, while it is tempered and to our ears hardly audible in ʼAristotle and ʼear. In ancient languages the spiritus asper is frequently represented by the dental flatus (s), and the spiritus lenis by the labial flatus v (Digamma Æolicum).

The dental flatus, as a tenuis or rather as spiritus asper, is heard in sin and seal; while media or lenis is frequently represented by the English z, as in zeal and breeze.

The sharp labial flatus is the pure f, which the Greeks could not pronounce, and which we hear in "find" and "life." The flat corresponding sound is heard in "vine" and "live." This also is a difficult letter to pronounce, and is therefore avoided by many people, or changed into b, as Scaliger said, "Felices populi quibus vivere est bibere."

Strictly speaking, and in accordance with our own definitions, every consonant at the end of a word, unless it is followed by a slight vocal exhalation such as is heard in drug, loud, sob, must become a tenuis. Now, if we take words where the final consonant is a flatus, but where, by the addition of a derivative syllable, the flatus ceases to be really final, we shall see distinctly how the flatus asper and lenis interchange. The guttural flatus cannot occur at the end of words. But the sharp dental flatus is heard in "grass" and "grease." Here the s is really final, although an e is put at the end of grease. If we form the two verbs, to graze and to grease, we have the corresponding flat s, the common German s. Exactly the same grammatical process applied to the labial flatus changes "life" into "live," i. e. the sharp labial flatus into the flat.

Some languages, as, for instance, Sanskrit, acknowledge none but sharp sibilants; and a media followed by s is changed in Sanskrit into a tenuis.

Formation of Nasals.

If, in the three organs, a full contact takes place and the vocal breathing is stopped, not abruptly, but in the same manner as with the sonant letters, and if afterwards the vocal breathing is emitted, not through the mouth, but through the nose, we get the three full nasal consonants n., n, and m, for the guttural, dental, and labial series.

In most cases the peculiar character of the nasal is determined by the consonant immediately following. In "ink," the n is necessarily guttural; and if we try to pronounce it as a dental or labial, we have to stop after the n, and the transition to the guttural k becomes so awkward that, even in words like to "in-cur," most people pronounce the n like a guttural. No language, as far as I know, is fond of such incongruities as a guttural n. followed by any but guttural consonants, and they generally sacrifice etymology to euphony. In English we cannot pronounce em-ty, and therefore we pronounce and write emp-ty. In the Uraon-Kol language, which is a Tamulian dialect, "enan" is I, and the possessive prefix is "in," my. But in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal we find "im-bas," my father; but "ing-kos," my child. Cicero alludes to the same where he speaks of the n adulterinum. He says, that "cum nobis" was pronounced like "cun nobis."

At the end of words and syllables, however, the three nasal sounds, guttural, dental, or labial, may occur independently; and as it is necessary to distinguish a final m from a final n (ἀγαθόν, bonum), it will be advisable also to do the same for a final guttural nasal, as the French "bon," "Lundi," or the English "to sing." It is true that in most languages the final guttural nasal becomes really a double consonant, i.e. n+g, as in "sing," or n+k, as in "sink;" still, as the pronunciation on this point varies even in different parts of England, it will be necessary to provide a distinct category, and afterwards a distinct sign, for the guttural final nasal.

In some languages we meet even with an initial guttural nasal, as in Tibetan "nga-rang," I myself. Whether here the initial sound is really so evanescent as to require a different sign from that which we have as the final letter in "rang," is a question which a native alone could answer. Certain it is that in the Tibetan alphabet itself both are written by the same sign, while Csoma de Körös writes the initial guttural n by ň, the final by ng; as "ňa-rang."

We have now, on physiological grounds, established the following system of consonants:

Tenues. Mediæ. Semi-
vocales.
Flatus sibilantes: Nasales.
asperes. lenes.
Gutturales: k (cap) g (go) h (loch) ʽ (hear) ʼ (ear) n (sing).
Dentales: t (town) d (do) l (low) s (seal) ş (zeal) n (sin).
Labiales: p (pint) b (bring) w (win) f (life) v (live) m (sum).

Formation of Aspirates.

According to Sanskrit grammarians, if we begin to pronounce the tenuis, but, instead of stopping it abruptly, allow it to come out with what they call the corresponding "wind" (flatus, wrongly called sibilans), we produce the aspirata, as a modified tenuis, not as a double consonant. This is intelligible for the tenuis aspirata, but less so for the media aspirata. Other grammarians, therefore, maintain that the mediæ aspiratæ are formed by pronouncing the mediæ with a final h, not the flatus, but the semi-vowel; and they insist on this principally because the aspirated sonants could not be said to merge into, or terminate by, a surd sibilant. Accepting this view of the formation of these aspirates, to which we have no corresponding sounds in English, we may now represent the complete table of all consonantal sounds possible in any dialect, as follows:—

Tenuis. Tenuis
aspir.
Media. Media
aspir.
Semi-
vocales.
Flatus
sibilantes.
Nasales.
Gutturales: k kh g gh h ʽ ʼ n.
Dentales: t th d dh l s ş n
Labial: p ph b bh w f v m

It should be remarked that in the course of time the fine distinctions between kh, gh, and ʽ, between ph, bh, and f, become generally merged into one common sound. In Sanskrit only, and in some of the southern languages of India, through the influence of Sanskrit, the distinction has been maintained. Instead of Sanskrit th we find in Latin the simple t; instead of dh, the simple d, or, as a nearer approach, the f (dhuma = fumus, &c.). The etymological distinction maintained in Sanskrit between "dha," to put, to create, and "da," to give, is lost in Persian, because there the two initial sounds d and dh have become one, and the root "da" has taken to itself the meaning both of creating and giving. Whatever objections, therefore, might be raised against the anticipated representation of the tenuis and media aspirata by means of an additional italic h (the original representative of the guttural semi-vowel, or, according to others, of the guttural flatus), they would practically apply only to a very limited sphere of languages; for even in the Tamulian languages the fine distinctions introduced into their orthography have hardly found their way into the spoken dialects of the large masses.

Modifications of Gutturals and Dentals.

From what has been said before on the formation of the guttural and dental sounds, it must be clear that the exact place of contact by which they are produced can never be fixed with geometrical precision, and that by shifting this point forward or backward certain modifications will arise in the pronunciation of individuals, tribes, or nations. The point of contact between the lips is not liable to the same changes, and the labials are, therefore, the most constant sounds in all dialects.

A. Dialectic Modifications of Gutturals and Dentals.

Where this variety of pronunciation is only in degree, without affecting the nature and real character of a guttural or dental consonant, we need not take any cognisance of it. Gutturals from a Semitic throat have a deeper sound than our own, and some grammarians have made a new class for them by calling them pectoral letters. The guttural semi-vowel as heard in the German "loch" and "ach" is deeper, and as it were more pectoral, than in "ich:" but this is simply owing to the influence of the preceding vowel. Again, the Swiss ch is deeper than the usual German ch, whatever vowel may precede or follow, but this is owing to a peculiarity of the organs of speech; and whatever letter might be chosen to represent this Swiss ch in a phonetic alphabet, it is sure that no one but a Swiss could ever pronounce it. Sanskrit grammarians ascribe to the h the chest as the place of formation (urasya), while they distinguish the other gutturals by the name of tongue-root letters (gihvamuliya). These refinements, however, are of no practical use; because, in dialects where the guttural sound is affected and diverted from its purer intonation, we generally find that the pure sound is lost altogether; so that the two hardly ever co-exist in the same language.

B. Specific Modifications of Gutturals and Dentals.

1. Palatals as Modifications of Gutturals.

But the place of contact of the gutturals may be pushed forward so far as to lie no longer between tongue and throat, but between tongue and palate. This change has taken place in almost all languages. Latin "cantus" is still "canto" in Italian, but in English "chant." In the same manner, the guttural tenuis in the Latin "vocs" (vox) has been softened in Sanskrit into the sound of the English ch, at least where it is followed by certain letters. Thus we have:

but "vachmi," I speak,
but "vakshi," thou speakest,
but "vakti," he speaks.

The same applies to the media. Latin "largus" is Italian "largo," but English "large." The Latin guttural media g in "jungo" is softened in Sanskrit into the sound of the English j. We have Sanskrit "yuga," Latin "jugum;" but in the verb we have:

yunakyunaj + shi,mi, I join.
yunakyunak + shi,shi, thou joinest.
yunakyunak + shi,ti, he joins.

The identity of many words in Latin and Sanskrit becomes palpable at once, if, instead of writing this modified guttural, or, as we may now call it, palatal sound, by a new type, we write it by a modified k. Sansk. "chatvar," or as some write "tschatwar," does not look like "quatuor;" but Lithuanian "keturi" and Sanskrit "katvar" speak for themselves. Sanskrit "cha" or or "tscha" does not look like Latin "que; " but Greek "κε" and Sanskrit "ka" assert their relationship without any disguise. Although, therefore, we are forced to admit the palatals, as a separate class, side by side with the gutturals, because most languages retain both sets and use them for distinct etymological and grammatical purposes, still it will be well to remember that the palatals are more nearly related to the gutturals than to any other class, and that in most languages the two are still interchangeable.

That the pronunciation of the palatals may vary again, like that of the gutturals, requires no explanation. Some people imagine they perceive a difference between the English palatal in "church," and the Italian palatal in "cielo," and they maintain that no Englishman can properly pronounce the Italian palatal. If so, it only proves what was said before, that slight modifications like these do never co-exist in the same language; that English has but one, and Italian but one palatal, though the two may slightly differ. But even if we invented a special letter to represent the Italian palatal, no one except an Italian would be able to pronounce it for his very life, as little as the French were able to pronounce "ceci" and "ciceri" at the time of the Sicilian Vespers. All consonants, therefore, which are no longer gutturals, and not yet dentals, should be called palatals. That palatals have again a tendency toward becoming dentals, may be seen from words like "τεσσαρες" instead of "katvaras" or "keturi."

Frequently the pronunciation of the palatals becomes so broad that they seem, and in some cases really are, double consonants. Some people pronounce "church" (kirk) as if it were written "tshurtsh." If this pronunciation becomes sanctioned, and we have to deal with a language which has as yet no historical orthography, it must be left to the ear of the missionary to determine whether he hears distinctly two consonants, or one only though pronounced rather fully and broadly. If he hears distinctly the two sounds t + sh, he should write both, particularly if in the same language there exists another series of letters with the simple palatal sound. This is the case, for instance, in Tibetan and its numerous dialects. If, therefore, the missionary has to deal with a Bhotîya dialect, which has not yet been fixed by the Tibetan alphabet, the simple palatals should be kept distinct from the compound palatals, tsh, dsh, &c. In the literary language of Tibet, where the Sanskrit alphabet has been adopted, an artificial distinction has been introduced, and the compound sounds, usually transcribed as tsh, tshh, and dsh, are distinguished by a diacritical mark at the top from the simple palatals, the sound of which is described as like the English ch in church, and j in join. How this artificial distinction should be rendered in transliteration, will have to be considered under III. b. If we have once the palatal tenuis, the same modifications as described above give us the palatal media, the two aspiratæ, the nasal, the semi-vowel, and the sibilant.

The sound of the tenuis is given in the English "church;" of the media, in "to join." The semi-vowel we have in the pronunciation of "yea." The nasal again hardly exists by itself, but only if followed by palatals. We have it in "inch" and "injure." Where the Spaniards use an ñ, they write a double by a simple sound; for the sound is the nasal followed by the corresponding semi-vowel, ny. The French express the same sound in a different manner. The French "besogne," if it occurred in an African language, would have to be expressed by the missionary as beşonye.

As to the palatal flatus or sibilant, we must distinguish again between its sharp and flat sound. The sharp sound is heard in "sharp," or French "chose." The flat sound is unknown in English, but of frequent occurrence in French; such as "je," and "joli," very different from the English "jolly." It is a sound of frequent occurrence in African languages.[2] The difference between the hard and soft palatal flatus may best be illustrated by a reference to the modern languages of Europe. A guttural tenuis in Latin becomes a palatal tenuis in English, and a palatal sibilant in French; cantus, the chant, le chant. Here the initial sibilant in French is a tenuis or asper like the English sh in "she." A guttural media in Latin becomes a palatal media in English, and a palatal sibilant in French; elegia, the elegy, l'élégie. Here the sibilant sound of the French g is the same as in "genou" or "je;" it is the soft palatal sibilant, sometimes expressed in English by s, as in erasure and pleasure.

2. Linguals as Modifications of Dentals.

While the pure dental is produced by bringing the tip of the tongue straight against the teeth, a peculiarly modified and rather obtuse consonantal sound is formed if the tongue is curled back till its tip is at the root, and if then the dome of the mouth is struck with its back or under-surface. The consonants produced by this a peculiar process differ from the dentals, both by their place and by their instrument, and it has been common in languages where these peculiar consonants occur to call them "linguals." Although this name is not quite distinct, the tongue being the agent in the palatals and dentals as well as in these linguals, still it is preferable to another name which has also been applied to them, Cerebrals—mere mistranslation of the Sanskrit name "Murddhanya."[3] These linguals vary again in the degree of obtuseness which is imparted to them in different dialects, and which evades graphical representation. All letters which cease to be pure dentals by shifting the point of contact backward from the teeth, must be considered as linguals; and many languages, Semitic as well as Arian, use them for distinct etymological purposes. As with the palatals, we have with the linguals also a complete set of modified consonants. The lingual tenuis, tenuis aspirata, media, media aspirata, and nasal have no corresponding sounds in English, because, as we shall see, the English organ has modified the dental sounds by a forward and not by a backward movement. The semi-vowel is the lingual r, produced by a vibration of the curled tongue in which the Italians and Scotch excel, and which we find it difficult to imitate. The English and the German r become mostly guttural, while, on the contrary, the Semitic guttural semi-vowel, hain, takes frequently the sound of r. It might be advisable to distinguish between a guttural and a lingual r; but most organs can only pronounce either the one or the other, and the two therefore seldom co-exist in the same dialect.

The lingual sibilant is a sound peculiar to the Sanskrit; and as, particularly in modern Indian dialects, it interchanges with the guttural tenuis aspirata, its pronunciation must have partaken of a certain guttural flatus.

There is a peculiarity in the pronunciation of the dental tenuis aspirata and media aspirata, which, though it exists but in few languages, deserves to be noticed here. In most of the spoken idioms of Europe, although a distinction is made in writing, there is hardly any difference in the pronunciation of t and th, or d and dh. German "thun," to do, French "théologie," are pronounced as if they were written "tun," "téologie." In the Low German and Scandinavian dialects, however, the aspiration of the t and d (according to Grimm's law, an organic aspiration) has been preserved to a certain extent, only that the consonantal contact by which they are produced takes place no longer between the tongue and the inside of the teeth, but is pushed forward so as to lie really between the tongue and the edge of the teeth. This position of the organs produces the two well-known English sounds of th, in "think" and "though." There is a distinct Runic letter to express them, Þ; and in later MSS. a graphical distinction is introduced between ꝥ and đ, tenuis and media. The difference between the tenuis and media is brought out most distinctly by the same experiment which was tried for f and v. We have the tenuis in "breath," but it is changed into media in "to breathe."

We may consider these two sounds as dialectical varieties of the real th and dh, which existed in Sanskrit, but which, like most aspirated sonant and surd consonants, have since become extinct. To many people the pronunciation of the English th is an impossibility; and in no dialect, as far as we know, does the English pronunciation of the th co-exist with the pure and simple pronunciation of th and dh. Still, as their sound is very characteristic, it might be desirable to mark it in writing also, so that even people who do not know the peculiar accent and pronunciation of a language, should be able to distinguish by the eye the English sound of the th from the usual th and dh.

The principal consonantal sounds, without any regard as yet to their graphic representation, may now be classified and defined as follows: the approximate sound is indicated by English words.

a.
Tenuís.
b.
Tenuis
aspirata.
c.
Media.
d.
Media
aspirata.
e.
Nasalis.
f.
Semivocalis.
g.
Flatus
(sibilans).
1. Gutturals
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
kite
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
gate
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
English loch hear, ear
2. Palatals
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church
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join
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Fr. signe yet sharp, Fr. je
3. Dentals
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tan (breath) dock (breathe) not let grass, grease
4. Linguals
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run
5. Labials
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pan
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bed
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man will life, live

The Physiological Scale of Vowels.

If we recall the process by which the semi-vowels were formed in the three principal classes, and if, instead of stopping the vocal sound by means of that slight remnant of consonantal contact which was characteristic in the formation of the semi-vowels, we allow the full volume of breath to pass over the point of contact and there to vibrate and sound, we get three pure vowel sounds, guttural, palatal, and dental, which can best be expressed by the Italian A, I, U, as heard in bath, ravine, put.

Formation of the Labial Vowel.

Let us pronounce the labial semi-vowel (f. 5.), the English w in woe, and, instead of stopping the vocal sound as it approaches the labial point of contact, let us emit it freely through the rounded aperture of the lips, and we have the vowel u. Here also the experiment of the candle will elucidate the process that takes place, but of which we are hardly conscious. The mere semivowel w, not followed by any vowel, should not produce any disturbance in the flame; at least not more than might be occasioned by the motion of the lips, which would be the same for all consonants. The labial flatus, f, on the contrary, will disturb the flame considerably, and the vowel u may extinguish it.

Formation of the Palatal Vowel.

The same process which changes w into u, changes the guttural semi-vowel h into a, and the palatal semi-vowel y into i. Let us pronounce the y in yea without any vowel after it, and it only requires the removal of that stoppage of sound which takes place between tongue and palate, in order to allow the vowel i, as in pin or ravine, to be heard distinctly.

Formation of the Guttural Vowel.

Let us pronounce the guttural semi-vowel as heard in loch or the Hebrew hain, and, if we try to change this semi-vowel gradually into the vowel a, we feel that what we do is merely to remove that stoppage which in the formation of the semi-vowel takes place at the very point of guttural contact.

Succession of Vowels, natural and artificial.

The organic succession of vowel sounds is the same as for consonants,—guttural, palatal, labial, a, i, u. The succession of vowel sounds produced by the gradual lengthening of a musical pipe of a particular construction, is an interesting experiment as to the scale of sound in the abstract. It gives

i, e, a, aw, o, u.
beat, bait, bath, bought, boat, boot.

But as these pipes are square or round, at all events regular, while the construction of the pipe formed by throat, palate, jaws, and lips is not, the succession of vowels given by these pipes cannot be expected to correspond with the real succession of vowels as formed by the organs of speech.

If we pay attention to the successive contraction of the throat only, we shall find, indeed, that the aperture of the throat is smallest if we pronounce the Italian i, and that it gets gradually larger as we pronounce e, a, o, u. But if we pay attention to the successive contraction of the lips, which is quite as essential to the formation of the vowels as the contraction of the throat, we shall have a very different scale. We shall find the aperture of the lips largest if we pronounce the a, and we shall see it gradually decrease as we go on to the e, i, o, and u.[4]

If we represent the opening of the lips by Roman, and the opening of the throat by English figures; if then we put the smallest aperture as one unit, we may represent the five vowels in a mathematical progression:

ei = III. 1.
e = IV. 2.
a = IV. 3.
o = III. 4.
u = III. 5.

The Lingual and Dental Vowels.

Besides the three vowels struck at the guttural, palatal, and labial points of contact, the Sanskrit, in strict analogy, forms two peculiar vowels as modifications of the lingual and dental semi-vowels. R and L, subjected to the same process which changes h into a, y into i, and w into u, become ri, li, or and . At least these sounds ri and li, approach as near to the original value of the Indian vowels as with our alphabet we can express it. According to their origin, they may be described as r and l opened and vocalised.

Modifications of the Guttural Vowel.

The pure guttural sound of a, which we hear in "bar," is subject to two modifications, in which the sound of a is obscured or broken by a slight palatal or labial pressure. These sounds are heard in English in "birch" and "work;" sounds so indistinct that they seem almost to evade physiological definition and graphic representation. Some languages acknowledge but one indistinct vowel sound, and ascribe its palatal or labial colouring to the influence of preceding or following consonants. In German this sound is, indeed, but one, and may be expressed by the shortest e. In French it is the e muet at the end of entendre, Havre, Londres. It extends most widely in English, and even syllables originally written with two vowels, like harbour, neighbour, have here been reduced to this low level of vocal indistinctness.

Quantity of Vowels.

All vowels may be short or long, with the exception of the indistinct shewas ĕ and ŏ, which are always short.

The sound of the long a we have in bath; of the short, in bat.

The sound of the long ai we have in bath;ravine; of the short, in pin.

The sound of the long u we have in boot; of the short, in put.

The sound of ĕ we have in bird.

The sound of ŏ we have in work.

Diphthongs.

From the organic succession of the three simple vowels a, i, u, it follows that real compound vowels can only be formed with a, as the first and most independent vowel, for their basis. The a, on its onward passage from the throat to the aperture of the mouth, may be followed or modified by i or u. It may embrace the palatal and labial vowels, and carry them along with it without having to retrace its steps, and without occasioning any stoppage, which of course would at once change the vowel into the semi-vowel. In Sanskrit, therefore, the palatal and labial vowels, if brought in immediate contact with a following a, relapse naturally into their corresponding semi-vowels, y and v, and do never form the base of diphthongs. The vowel i+a, or u+a, if pronounced in quick succession, become ya and va, but they will never coalesce into one vocal sound, because the intonation of the a lies behind that of i; the vocal flatus has to be inverted, and this inversion amounts in fact to a consonantal stoppage sufficient to change the vowels i and u into the semi-vowels y and v.

The four Bases of Diphthongs.

According to our definition of a diphthong, their basis can only be guttural; but as the short guttural a is liable to three modifications, long a, ĕ, and ŏ, we get really a four-fold basis for diphthong sounds. Each of the four gutturals being liable to a palatal or labial modification, we may on physiological grounds expect eight different compound vowels.

This can best be represented by a diagram:

Diphthongs with ă as base.

If the short a is quickly followed by i and u, so that, as the Hindus say, the guttural is mixed with the palatal and labial vowels like milk and water, we get the diphthongs ai and au, pronounced as in French. They correspond in sound to the Italian e and o, and to the English sounds in sailor and home.

Diphthongs with ā as Base.

If the a, as the first element, retains more of its independent nature, or is long, then â + i pronounced together give the German diphthong ai, as in pie and buy; a + u give the German diphthong au, as in proud.

The formation of these sounds is well described in § 15. of the printed Rules: "Diphthongal sounds are formed by the combination of any two vowel sounds. They may be best ascertained and tested by first pronouncing each vowel distinctly and separately, and then making them gradually coalesce.

"Thus a-i, (English) ah-ee, ai, which forms the sound of the English i in ride, mile.

"A-u, au, forms the sound of the English ow in now.

"O-i, oi, as in voice."

Diphthongs with ĕ as Base.

If, instead of the short or long a, the base of the diphthong becomes ĕ, we get the combinations ei and eu, both of rare occurrence except in German, where the sound of ei (English isle), is thinner than that of ai (English ire). In eu, the two vowels are still heard very distinctly in the Italian Europa. In German they coalesce more, and almost take the sound of oy in boy.

Diphthongs with ŏ as Base.

In the diphthong oi also, the pronunciation may vary according to the degree of speed with which the i follows the ŏ. O and u, on the contrary, coalesce easily, and form the well-known deep sound of ou in bought, or of a in fall.

Vowels broken by e or i.

In some languages we find that certain vowels are modified by a following ĕ, or, as some say, by i. The vowels most liable to this modification are a, o, u.

The a, with an inherent e, becomes German ä, as in väter, very nearly the same sound as in the English substantive bear. O, by the same influence, takes the German sound of ö in König, or that of the French eu in peu. U, in German, becomes ü, the French u in jurer.

To many organs these sounds are so troublesome that they are sometimes avoided altogether, as in English. Their pronunciation varies in different dialects; and the German ä sounds in some places like e, the French ü like u.

If we remember how the simple vowel sounds could be represented in a mathematical progression according to the amount of aperture of the throat and lips required for their formation, we shall see that what takes place if an a is changed to ae, an o to oe, and an u to ue, is in each case a diminution of the guttural aperture. While the pure a is formed by 5 degrees of labial and 3 degrees of guttural aperture, the ae is produced by 5 degrees of labial, but only 1 degree of guttural aperture. Thus, in the pronunciation of oe, the labial aperture remains at 2 degrees, and in the pronunciation of ue at 1 degree; but in either case the guttural aperture is respectively reduced from 4 degrees and 5 degrees to 1 degree. We may, therefore, represent the broken vowels (Grimm's Umlaut) in the following manner:—

ae=V. 1; oe=II. 1; ue=I. 1.

There is one class of languages, the Tataric, where these broken sounds are of frequent occurrence, and of great importance. The "harmony of vowels" which pervades these dialects would be lost altogether (as it is, to a great extent, if Tataric languages are written with Arabic letters), unless a distinct category were assigned to these vowels. Besides the broken or softened a, o, and u, the Tataric languages have a fourth vowel, a softening of the i, which we hear in "will." Thus we have, in Yakute:

Hard vowels a,e o,e i,e u.e Heavy vowels a, ae, o, oe,
Hard vowelsSoft vowels ae, oe, ie, ue. Heavy vowelsLight vowels a,i, ae,ie, u, ue.

All the vowels in a Yakute word depend on the first. If the first is hard, all following vowels must be hard; if soft, all become soft. Again, if the vowel of one syllable is heavy, that of the next can only be the same heavy vowel, or its corresponding light vowel. If it is light, that of the next syllable must be the same light vowel, or its corresponding heavy vowel. For instance, if the first syllable of a word has a, the next can only have a or i; if ae, ae or ie; if o, o or u; if oe, œ or ue.

The vowels would, therefore, come under the following physiological categories:—

Guttural a, short, as in ass; long, as in far.
Guttural o œ short, as in work.
Guttural e short, as in bird.
Palatal i short, as in pin; long, as in ravine.
Labial u short, as in put; long, as in boot.
Gutturo-palatal ai (e) short, as in bed; long, as in sailor.
Gutturo palatal ai short, as in long, as in ire.
Gutturo palatal ei short, as in long, as in ice.
Gutturo palatal oi short, as in long, as in voice.
Gutturo-labial au (o) short, as in oven; long, as in home.
Gutturo palatal au short, as in long, as in proud.
Gutturo palatal eu short, as in Ital. Europa.
Gutturo palatal ou short, as in long, as in bought.
Lingual ri short, as in fiery; long, as in reach.
Dental li short, as in friendly; long, as in leach.
A broken, as in Väter. I broken, as in Diener.
O broken, as in König. U broken, as in Güte.

II.

How can these principal Sounds, after proper Classification, be expressed by us in writing and printing, without obscuring their physiological Value, and without creating any new typographical Difficulties?

The results at which we have arrived in the first part of our inquiry are those on which, with very slight and less important exceptions, all may be said to agree, who, whether in India or Europe, attempted to analyse scientifically the elements of human speech. There are, no doubt, some refinements, and some more accurate subdivisions, as will be seen in the extracts given from the Pratisakhyas, which it will be necessary to attend to in exceptional cases, and particularly in philological researches. But, as far as the general physiological outlines of our phonetic system are concerned, we hardly expect any serious difference of opinion.

Widely different opinions, however, start up as soon as we approach the second question, as to how all these sounds are to be expressed in writing. Omitting the different propositions to adopt an Oriental alphabet, such as Sanskrit or Arabic, or the Greek alphabet, or newly invented letters, whether short-hand or otherwise, we shall take it for granted that the Latin alphabet, which, though of Semitic origin, has so long been the armour of thought in the struggles and conquests of civilisation, has really the greatest and most natural claims on our consideration.

There are two principles regulating the application of the Latin alphabet to our physiological sounds on which there is still a general agreement, and which have been sanctioned by the authority of the Church Missionary Society:[5]

1. That each sound shall have but one representative letter, and that therefore each letter shall always express the same sound.

2. That each simple sound shall be expressed by a single letter, and compound sounds by compound letters.

If with these two principles we try to write the thirty-five consonants of our physiological alphabet by means of the twenty-four consonants of the Latin, it follows that we must add to the latter diacritical signs, in order to make them answer our purpose.

Now, in the adoption of diacritical signs, another principle should be laid down:

"That the same modification should always be expressed by the same diacritical mark."

Guttural, Palatal, and Dental Tenuis.

The guttural, dental, and labial tenues are naturally expressed by k, t, p.

Guttural, Palatal, and Dental Media.

The modification which changes these tenues into mediæ should consistently be expressed by a uniform diacritical sign attached to k, t, p. For more than one reason, however, we prefer the Latin letters, g, d, b.

It is understood that g, after once being chosen as the representative of the guttural media, like g in gun, whatever vowel may follow, could never be used promiscuously both for this and the palatal media, as the English g in gun and gin.

How to express Aspirates?

The aspirated tenues and mediæ in the guttural, dental, and palatal series, which, according to the description given above, are not compound, but simple though modified sounds, should be written by simple consonants with a diacritical mark of aspiration. This would give us:

k͏̔, t͏̔, p͏̔, g͏̔, d͏̔, b͏̔.

These types have been cut many times, ever since Count Volney founded his prize at the French Academy for transcribing Oriental alphabets, and even before his time. They exist at Berlin, Paris, Leipzig, Darmstadt, Petersburg, and several other places. They have been cut in different sizes and on different bodies. Still the difficulty of having them at hand when required, of making them range properly, and of keeping always a sufficient stock of them, has been so great even in places like London, Paris, and Berlin, that their adoption would defeat the very object of our alphabet, which is to be used in Greenland as well as in Borneo, and is to be handled by unexperienced printers even in the most distant stations, where nothing but an ordinary English fount can be expected to exist. In our Missionary alphabet we must have no dots, no hooks, no accents, no Greek letters, no new types, no diacritical appendages whatsoever. No doubt, Missionary Societies might have all these letters cut and cast on as many sizes and bodies as necessary. Punches or founts might be sent to the principal Missionary stations. But how long would this last? If a few psalms or catechisms had to be printed at Bangkok, and if there were no hooked letters to represent the aspirated palatal sound by a single type (k͏̔͏́), is it likely that they would send to Calcutta or London for this type, which, after it arrived, might perhaps be found not to range with the rest? It is much more likely that, in the absence of the type prescribed by the Missionary Societies at home, each missionary would find himself thrown on his own resources, and different alphabets would again spring up in different places. Besides, our alphabet is not only to be an alphabet of missionaries. In time it is to become the alphabet of those tribes and nations whose first acquaintance with writing will be through the Bible translated into their language and transcribed in a rational alphabet. Fifty or a hundred years hence, it may be the alphabet of all the civilised nations of Africa, Australia, and the greater part of Asia. Shall all the printers of Australian advertisements, the editors of African newspapers, the publishers of Malay novels or Papua primers, write to Mr. Watts, Crown Court, Temple Bar, to send new sorts of dotted and hooked letters? I do not say it is impossible; but many things are possible, and still not practical; and these new hooked and dotted types seem to me to belong to this very class of things.

In questions of this kind, no harm is done if principles are sacrificed to expediency; and I therefore propose to write the aspirate letters by

kh, th, ph, gh, dh, bh.

What do we lose by this? The spiritus asper (ʽ) is after all but a faintly disguised H, changed into Ⱶ and Ꟶ, for asper and lenis, and then abbreviated into ʽ and ʼ. Besides, the languages where these simple aspirates occur are not many; and in Indian languages, where they are of most frequent use, the phonetic system is so carefully arranged that there no ambiguity can arise whether kh be meant for an aspirated guttural tenuis or for k followed by the semi-vowel h. If the semi-vowel h comes in immediate contact with k, k+h is changed into g+gh, or a stop (virama) has to be put after the k. This might be done where, as in discussing grammatical niceties, it is desirable to distinguish between kh and k-h. The missionary, except in India, will hardly ever suffer from this ambiguity; and if the scholar should insist on its being removed, we shall see immediately how even the most exaggerated scruples on this point could be satisfied.

We have still, if we examine the alphabets hitherto proposed or adopted, a whole array of dots and hooks before us; and though we might, after gaining our point with regard to the h, get through gutturals, dentals, and labials, we have still formidable enemies to encounter in the palatals.

How to express Palatals?

Palatals are modifications of gutturals, and therefore the most natural course would be to express them by the guttural series, adding only a line or an accent or a dot, or any other uniform diacritical sign to indicate their modified value. So great, however, has been the disinclination to use diacritical signs, that in common usage, where the palatal tenuis had to be expressed, the most anomalous expedients have been resorted to in order to avoid hooks or dots. In English, to represent the Sanskrit palatal tenuis, ch has been used; and as the h seemed to be too much in the teeth of all analogy, the simple c even has been adopted, leaving ch for the aspirated palatal. On the same ground, the Germans write tsch for the palatal tenuis, and tschh for the aspirate. The Italians do not hesitate to use ci for the tenuis, and perhaps cih for the aspirate, though the latter I have not met with. Still all, even the German tschh, are meant to represent simple consonants. That in English the ch, in Italian ci, and in German tsch, have a sound very like the palatal tenuis, is of course a mere accident. Not even in English has ch always the same sound, and its pronunciation in the different dialects of Europe varies more than that of most letters. Besides, our alphabetical representative of the palatal sound is to be pronounced, and, as it were, understood, not by a few people in Germany or Italy, but by all the nations of Africa and Australia. To them the ch would prove deceptive; first, because we never use the simple c (by this we make up for the first alphabetical divorce introduced by the libertus of Spurius Carvilius Ruga), and, secondly, because the h would seem to indicate the modification of the aspirate.

The natural way of writing the palatals, so as not to obscure their close relationship to the gutturals, would be, k͏̤, k͏̤h, g͏̤, g͏̤h.

But here the same difficulty arises as before. If the dots or lines are printed separately, the lines where these dots occur become more distant than the rest. For one such dotted letter the compositor has to compose a whole line of blanks. These will shift, particularly when there are corrections, and the misprints are endless. But they might be cast on one type. True, they might be—perhaps they will be. At all events they have been, and Volney has offered them to anybody that would ask for them. Still, when I want them at a press like the University press of Oxford, I cannot get them. We must not expect that what is impossible in the nineteenth century at Oxford will be possible in the twentieth century at Timbuktu.

Now the difficulty, as far as I can see, was solved by a compositor to whom I sent some MS., where each palatal letter was marked by a line under it. The compositor, not knowing what these lines meant, took them for the usual marks of italics, and I was surprised when I saw that this answered the purpose, saved much trouble and much expense, and, on the whole, did not look bad. As every English fount includes italic letters, the usefulness of these modified types for our Missionary alphabet "springs into the eyes," as we say in German. They startle the eye sufficiently to remind the reader of their modified pronunciation, and at the same time they indicate, as in most cases they ought to do, their original guttural character to the reflecting mind of the philologist. As in ordinary books italics are used to attract attention, they will have to do the same in our alphabet. Even to people who never heard the names of guttural and palatal letters, they will show that the k is not the usual k. Persons in the slightest degree acquainted with phonetics will be made aware that the k is, in shape and sound, a modification of the k. All who admit that palatals are modifications of gutturals would see at once that the modification intended by k could only be palatal. As to the proper pronunciation of the k, as palatal tenuis, in different dialects, people who have to read their own language written in this alphabet would never hesitate about its pronunciation. Others must learn it, as they now learn the pronunciation of Italian ci and chi; or they must rest satisfied if they know that k is meant for the palatal tenuis, and not for anything else. Sooner or later this expedient is sure to be adopted. Thus we get, as the representatives of the palatals,

k, kh, g, gh.

Now it will appear, also, how we can avoid the ambiguity alluded to before, as to whether the h of aspirated consonants expresses their aspirated nature or an independent guttural semi-vowel or flatus. Let the h, where it is not meant as a letter, but as a diacritical sign, be printed as an italic h, and the last ground for complaint will vanish. Still this is necessary for philological purposes only; for practical purposes the common h may remain.

In writing, the dots or lines under the palatals will have to be retained. Still they take too much time in writing to allow us to suppose that the Africans will retain them when they come to write for themselves. They will find some more current marks; as, for instance, by drawing the last stroke of the letter below the line. However, in writing, anybody may please himself, as long as the printer knows what is intended when he has to bring it before the public. As a hint to German missionaries, I beg to say that, for writing quickly with this new alphabet, they will find it useful in their manuscript notes to write German letters instead of italics.

An accidental, though by no means undesirable, advantage is gained by using italics to express the palatals. If we read that Sanskrit vâch (or vâtch, or vâtsch) is the same as Latin vox, but that sometimes vâch in Sanskrit is vâk or vâc, the eye imagines that it has three different words to deal with. By means of italics, vâk and vâk are almost identical to the eye, as kirk and kurk (church), would be if English were ever to be transcribed into the missionary alphabet. The same applies to the verb, where the phonetic distinction between vakmi, vakshi, vakti, can now be expressed without in any way disguising the etymological identity of the root. It would be wrong if we allowed the physiological principles of our alphabet to be modified for the sake of comparative philology; but where the phonetic changes of physiological sounds and the historical changes of words happen to run parallel, an alphabet, if well arranged, should always be capable of expressing this clearly.

If the pronunciation of the palatals is deteriorated, they sometimes take the sound of tsh, ts, s, sh, or even th. Cœlum (κοῖλον) becomes Italian cielo; where the initial sound is the same as in church (kirk). In old Friesic we have "tzaka" instead of English "check." In French, "ciel" is pronounced with an initial sharp dental s; "chose," with an initial sharp palatal s. In Spanish, the pronunciation of a c before e and i is that of the English th. In all these cases, when we have to deal with unwritten languages, the sounds, whether simple or double, should be traced back to their proper phonetic category, and be written accordingly. It will be well, however, to bear in mind that pronunciation may change in time and vary in different places, and that the most general representation of these sounds by palatals would generally prove the best in the long run.

It must be clear that, with the principles followed hitherto, it would be impossible to make an exception in favour of the English j as representative of the palatal media. It would be a schism in the whole system, and would besides deprive us of those advantages which comparative philology derives from a consistent representation of modified sounds: that Sanskrit yuga (ζύγον), as derived from "yug," to join, would be intelligible to everybody; while neither the German, to whom j is y, nor the Frenchman, nor the Spaniard would see the connexion between j and g.

The wish to retain the j is a natural one with Missionary Societies. It would enable us to spell uniformly the name of our Lord—and in all the translations of the Bible which the pious zeal of the mother country is now sowing over the virgin soil of Africa, Australia, and Asia, this one name would at least stand out unaltered and uncorrupted in all times and all tongues. But we may look at this from another point of view. As with other words, and with many of the most sacred words of our own language, their full and real meaning seems to grow more clear and distinct the more the material body of the words changes and decays, and the more their etymological meaning becomes dim and forgotten, so will it be with the name of our Lord. Let the name grow and change and vary in all the tongues of the earth, and the very variety of the name will proclaim the unity of Him who has promised to all tongues the gift of His Holy Spirit. And would it avail, even if now we insisted on this point? A thousand years ago, and all the nations of Europe wrote and pronounced this name uniformly; but at the present day there are hardly two languages where the name is pronounced exactly the same, and in several the writing has followed the pronunciation. It will be the same in Africa whatever we do at present. But if an exception is to be made, let it be a single exception, and let us still retain the regular way of writing for all other words in which the pure palatal media occurs.

How to express Linguals?

The linguals, as modifications of the dentals, have been written by common consent as dentals with dots or lines. In writing, the same will have to be retained, though no doubt a more current form will soon grow up if the alphabet becomes used by natives. They will probably draw the last stroke of the t and d below the line, and connect the body of the letter with the perpendicular line below. The linguals, therefore, would be, t͏̤, t͏̤h, d͏̤, d͏̤h, only that here also the printer would step in and convert the dotted or underlined letters into italics, t, th, d, dh.

I am at a loss how to mark that peculiar pronunciation of the dental aspirate, whether tenuis or media, which we write in English simply by th. It is not of frequent occurrence; still it occurs not only in European, but in Oriental languages also,—for instance, in Burmese. If it occurs in a language where no trace of the pure dental aspirate remains, where even foreign words and proper names, as Thomas (Tom), have to submit to it, we might safely write th (and dh) or th (and dh), as we do in English. The Anglo-Saxon letters ꝥ and ð would be very convenient; but how few founts, even in England, have got them! Again, zh and zh, and even ϑ͏̔ and ϑ͏̓, have been proposed; but they also are liable to objections. I think th and dh will, after all, be found to answer all practical purposes, if we only look to people who have to write and read their own language. Philologists cannot expect to learn all the peculiarities of pronunciation by the eye. They must learn from grammars or from personal intercourse how each tribe pronounces its dental aspirate; and comparative philology will find all its ends answered if it knows that th represents the organic dental aspirate, until its pronunciation deteriorates so far as to make it a double consonant. In this case the missionary also will have to write it ts, or ss, or whatever sound he may happen to hear. The five principal classes of physiological sounds would, therefore, have the following typographic exponents:—

Tenuis. Tenuis asp. Media. Media asp.
Guttural k kh g gh
Palatal k kh g gh
Dental t th d dh
Lingual t th d dh
Labial p ph b bh

How to express the Nasals?

In each of these five classes we have now to look for an exponent of the nasal.

Where the nasal is modified by the following consonant, it requires no modified sign, for reasons explained in the first part of our essay. The nasal in sink and sing is guttural; in inch and injure, palatal; in hint and bind, dental; in imp and dumb, labial.

But where these nasals occur at the beginning of words or at the end of syllables, they must have each its own mark. Let the dental nasal be n, the labial nasal m, the palatal nasal n. Where the guttural nasal is really so evanescent as not to bear to be expressed by ng, we must write n and a dot after it (n.), which makes no difficulty in printing, and will occur very rarely. What we call the palatal n is generally not a simple but a compound nasal, and should be written ny. For transliterating, however, we want a distinct sign, because the palatal nasal exists as a simple type in Sanskrit, and every single type must be transliterated by a single letter. Here I should propose an italic n.

The lingual n occurs in Sanskrit only. Its character is generally determined by lingual letters either following or preceding. Still, where it must be marked in Sanskrit transliterations, let it be represented by an inverted n.

How to express the Semi-vowels?

The Latin letters which naturally offer themselves as the counterparts of the semi-vowels, are h, y, r, l, v, and w.

If we select the h as the representative of the guttural semi-vowel as heard in "loch," we shall, of course, not be allowed to use the same sign for the guttural flatus. In many languages both sounds are promiscuously expressed by the same sign, not so much because the two are nearly related, as because in the course of time the pronunciation of the semi-vowel was reduced in many languages to that of the mere flatus, whether asper or lenis. The other change, that of spiritus asper or lenis into a guttural semi-vowel, is of rare occurrence. The Sanskrit h (), for instance, which is always the guttural semi-vowel, becomes in other dialects a spiritus asper, and sometimes, particularly in vulgar pronunciation, even a spiritus lenis. The Sanskrit "hrit," the Latin "cor, cordis," becomes "heart" in English, and even ʼeart. Sanskrit "hansa" is χῆν in Greek, but ʼanser in Latin. Sanskrit "hima," snow, becomes "hiems" in Latin, and Latin "hibernum" is "ʼiver" in French. Latin "vehere," the Sanskrit "vah," loses its final semi-vowel in "via," which is "veha, veʼa, via."

A similar observation applies to the Semitic guttural semi-vowel, the hain (ע). In Hebrew it is sometimes not pronounced at all, or, as we should say, it is changed into the spiritus lenis; so that in the Arabic alphabet, in order to remove this ambiguity and to show at once the full or weak pronunciation of the guttural semi-vowel, the ע was split in two: the one, the ع‎ little more than the spiritus lenis; the other, the غ‎, the hollow guttural semi-vowel which only a Semitic throat is able to utter.

Without paying any regard to these fluctuations and their alphabetical representations, the missionary, wherever he hears a guttural friction which can only be produced by a consonantal stoppage, should call it a semi-vowel; where there is no friction, but only a free emission of breath, it is the guttural flatus, the spiritus asper or lenis.

The palatal semi-vowel in Germany is usually transcribed by j, which, as far as archæological arguments go, would certainly be the most appropriate sign to represent the semi-vowel corresponding to the palatal vowel i. As, however, the j is one of the most variously pronounced letters in Europe, and as in England it has been usual to employ it as palatal media, it is better to discard it altogether from our alphabet, and to write y.

The lingual semi-vowel is r; if in some dialects the r is pronounced very near to the throat, this might be marked by an italic r, or rh.

The dental semi-vowel is written l. The mouillé sound of l may be expressed by an italic l.

Where the labial semi-vowel is formed by the lips, let it be written w. More usually it is formed by the upper lip and the edge of the lower teeth. It then becomes what the Hindus call a labio-dental semi-vowel, but it is hardly to be distinguished from the labial flatus lenis.

How to express the Flatus (Sibilants)?

As the guttural flatus, or spiritus asper and lenis, can only occur before a vowel, the printer will find no difficulty in representing these two sounds by the usual signs ʽ and ʼ placed before or over the vowel which follows. At the beginning of words there could be no reasonable objection to this mode of representing the very slight and hardly consonantal sound of the guttural flatus. But it will take some time before our eyes get accustomed to it in the middle of words. The Greeks did not mark it in the middle of words. They wrote ἅρμα, chariot, but εὐάρματος, with beautiful chariots; they wrote ἀνήρ, man, but εὐανδρία, manliness. Nor does there seem to be any necessity for marking the spiritus lenis in the middle of words. Every vowel beginning a syllable has necessarily the spiritus lenis; as going, seeing. As to the spiritus asper, which we have in "vehement," "vehicle," I fear that "veʽement," "veʽicle," will be objected to by the printer. If so, we have still the italic h as a last resource to express the spiritus asper in the middle of words.

The dental flatus sibilans, pronounced sharp as in "sin" or "grass," has, of course, the best claims on the letter s as its representative. Its corresponding soft sound, written in English by z, should be written by s with the French cedille (the little zed) under it (ş). Where this type should be wanting, we should not be much the worse for expressing it by the spiritus lenis put under the s. The French cedille would remind us of the soft pronunciation of the s, and the spiritus lenis would not mislead us as to the real physiological value of the soft dental flatus. For missionary purposes the long ſ would be preferable.

As all palatals are represented by italics, the palatal sibilant would naturally be written with an italic s. This would represent the sharp sound as heard in "sharp." The soft palatal sibilant would have the same exponent as the soft dental sibilant, only changed into italics (ş). This would be the proper sign for the French sound in "je," "genou," and for the African soft palatal sibilant, which, as Dr Krapf, Mr. Tutschek, and Mr. Boyce remark, will never be properly pronounced by an adult European. Here also an ſ printed in italic would enable us to dispense with the spiritus lenis placed underneath the s.

The labial flatus should be written by f. This is the sharp flatus, as heard in "life" and "find." The soft labial flatus ought consistently to be written as f with a spiritus lenis (f). But here again I fear we must sacrifice consistency to expediency, and adopt that sign with which we are familiar, the Latin v. As we express the labial semivowel by w, the v is still at our disposal, and will probably be preferred by the unanimous votes of missionaries and printers.

The lingual flatus is a sound peculiar to Sanskrit, and, owing to its hollow guttural pronunciation, it may be expressed there, as it has been hitherto, by s followed by the guttural semi-vowel h (sh). The Sanskrit knows no soft sibilants; hence we require but one representation for the lingual sh.

The different categories of consonantal sounds which we represented at the end of the first chapter by means of English words may now be filled out by the following graphic exponents:

a. b. c. d. e. f. g.
Tenuis. Tenuis
asp.
Media. Media
asp.
Nasalis. Semi-
vocalis.
Flatus
sibilans.
asp. len.
III. Guttur. k kh g gh n. h ʽ
III. Pal. k kh g gh n y s (ſ)
III. Dent. t th d dh n l s (ſ)
IV. Ling. t th d dh n (r) r (r) sh -
IV. Labial. p ph b bh m w f v

Although these exponents of the physiological categories have not been chosen because their present pronunciation in English, or French, or German is nearest to the physiological category which they have to represent, still, as we have avoided letters of which the pronunciation fluctuates very much (such as c, j, q, x, z), it will be found, on the whole, that little violence is done by this alphabet to the genius of any of these languages, and that neither an Englishman, nor a German, nor a Frenchman would ever feel much hesitation as to how any one of our letters should be pronounced.

Vowels.

The pronunciation of the vowels is more liable to change than that of the consonants. Hence we find that literary languages, which retain their orthography in spite of changes in pronunciation, have no scruple in expressing different sounds by the same sign; or, where two originally different vowels have sunk down to one and the same intermediate sound, we see that often the same sound is expressed by two different vowels. In the selection, therefore, of letters to express the general vowel sounds of our physiological alphabet, we can pay less attention to the present value of each vowel sign in the spoken languages of Europe than we did even with the consonants. And as there it was impossible, without creating an unwieldy mass of consonantal signs, to express all the slight shades of pronunciation by distinct letters, we shall have to make still greater allowance for dialectical varieties in the representation of vowels, where it would be hopeless should we attempt to depict in writing all the minute degrees in the sliding scale of native or foreign vowel sounds.

The reason why, in most systems of phonetic transcription, the Italian pronunciation of vowels has been taken as the normal pronunciation is, no doubt, that in Italian all vowel signs have but one sound, and the same sound is generally expressed by one and the same vowel. We propose, therefore, as in Italian, to represent the pure guttural vowel by a, the pure palatal vowel by i, and the pure labial vowel by u.

Besides the short a, we want one, or according to others, two graphic signs to represent the modified sound of the guttural a, which may be deflected from its pure sound by a slight and almost imperceptible palatal or labial pressure. These are the sounds which we have in "birch" and "work," and which we propose to write ĕ and ŏ. As we do not want the signs of ˘ and ¯ to mark the quantity of vowels, we may be allowed to use this sign ˘ to indicate indistinctness rather than brevity.

In missionary publications, however, which are intended in the first place for the natives, and not for the philologists of Europe, it will be sufficient to mark this sound by one type only, and as it is a vowel fluctuating between o and e, I propose to express it by œ.

Among the languages which have an alphabet of their own, some, as, for instance, Sanskrit, do not express these sounds by any peculiar sign, but use the short a instead. Other languages express both sounds by one sign; for instance, the Hebrew shewa, the pronunciation of which would naturally be influenced, or, so to say, coloured either by the preceding or the following letter. Other idioms again, like Latin, try to express this indistinct sound by e, i, o, or u. Besides the long e in res and the short e in celer, we have the indistinct ĕ in words like adversum and advorsum, septimus and septumus, where the Hindus write uniformly saptama, but pronounce it probably with vowels varying as in Latin and Greek. Besides the long o in odi, and the short o as in moneo, we have the indistinct o or u in orbs or urbs, in bonom or bonum. In most dialects one sign, either ĕ or ŏ, will be found sufficient, and in some cases it may be dispensed with altogether, as a slight shewa sound is necessarily pronounced, whether written or not, in words such as milk, marsh, elm, &c. The marks of quantity, ˘ and ¯, are superfluous in our alphabet; not that it is not always desirable to mark the quantity of vowels, but because here again, the same as with the accented consonant, a long syllable can be marked by the vowel in italics, while every other vowel is to be taken as short. Thus we should write in English bath, bar, but ass, bank; ravine, and pin; but (i.e. boot), and butcher. We should know at once that a in bath is long, while in ass it is short.

All compound vowel sounds should be written according to the process of their formation. Two only, which are of most frequent occurrence, the guttural short a, absorbed by either i or u, might perhaps be allowed to retain their usual signs, and be written e and o, instead of ai and au. The only reason, however, which can be given for writing e and o, instead of ai and au, is that we save a letter in writing; and this, considering how many millions of people may in the course of time have to use this alphabet, may be a saving of millions and millions of precious seconds. The more consistent way would be to express the gutturo-palatal sound of the Italian e by ai, the a being short. The French do the same in "aimer," while in English this sound is expressed by ey in prey, by ay in pray, by a in gate, and by ai in sailor. The gutturo-labial sound of the Italian o should be written au, which the French pronounce o. For etymological purposes also this plan would be preferable, as it frequently happens that an o (au), if followed by a vowel, has to be pronounced av. Thus in Sanskrit bhu, to be, becomes bhau (pronounced bho), and if followed by ami, it becomes bhav-ami, I am.

The diphthongs, where the full or long guttural a is followed by i and u, should be written ai and au. "To buy" would have to be written bai; to bow, bau. Whether au coalesce entirely, as in German, or less so, as in Italian, is a point which in each language must be learned by the ear, not by the eye.

Most people would not be able to distinguish between ai and ei. Still there is a difference; as, for instance, in German kaiser and eis. Even in English the sound of ie in "he lies" is said to be different from that of "he lies." Where it is necessary to mark this distinction, our diagram readily supplies ai and ei.

The diphthong eu is generally pronounced so that the two vowels are heard in succession, as in Italian Europa. Pronounced more quickly, as, for instance, in German, it approaches to the English sound of oy in boy. According to our diagram, we should have to write ĕi and ĕu; but ei and eu will be preferable for practical purposes.

The same applies to the diphthong ŏi. Here, also, both vowels can still be heard more or less distinctly. This more or less cannot be expressed in writing, but must be learned by practice.

The last diphthong, on the contrary, is always pronounced like one sound, and the deep guttural o seems to be followed, not by the vowel u, but only by an attempt to pronounce this vowel, which attempt ends, as it were, with the semi-vowel w, instead of the vowel. In English we have this sound in bought, aught, saw; and also in fall and all.

The proper representation of these diphthongs would be ŏi and ŏu; but oi and ou will be found to answer the purpose as well, except in philological works.

For representing the broken sounds of a, o, u, which we have in German väter, höhe, güte, in the French prêtre, peu, and une, but which the English avoids as sounds requiring too great an effort, no better signs offer themselves than ae, oe, ue. They are objectionable because they represent simple, though modified, sounds by two letters. Still we must yield, unless we mean to introduce the dotted German letters, ä, ö, ü. For the Tataric languages a fourth sound is required, a broken or soft i. This, too, we must write ie.

The Sanskrit vowels commonly called lingual and dental are best expressed by ri and li, where, by writing the r and l as italics, no ambiguity can arise between the vowels ri and li, and the semi-vowels r and l, followed by i.


Thus have all the principal consonantal and vowel sounds been classified physiologically and represented graphically. All the distinctions which it can ever be important to express have been expressed by means of the Roman alphabet without introducing any foreign letters, without using dots, hooks, lines, accents, or any other diacritical signs whatsoever. I do not deny that for more minute points, particularly in philological treatises, new sounds and new signs will be required. In Sanskrit we have Visarga and the real Anusvara (the Nasikya), which will require distinct signs in transliteration. In some African languages, clicks, unless they can be abolished in speaking, will have to be represented in writing. On points like these an agreement will be difficult, nor would it be possible to provide for all emergencies. There are still five consonants, c, j, q, x, z, which have not been used, and may perhaps prove useful for other purposes. It is curious that they should not have been required for our alphabet; for they do not occur either in the primitive Greek alphabet. The principal reason why they have been avoided in the Missionary alphabet is, because their pronunciation fluctuates more than that of most letters in the different spoken languages of Europe. This, however, though it makes them objectionable, does by no means exclude them for more special purposes. Besides, there are several letters which have not been used as italics.

If uniformity can be obtained with regard to the forty consonantal and the twenty-four vocal sounds, which are the principal modulations of the human voice fixed and sanctioned in the history of language, as far as it is known at present; if these sounds are always accepted in the definition which has been given solely on physiological grounds; and if they are always written with those letters which have been allotted to them solely for practical reasons, a great step will have been made towards facilitating the intellectual intercourse of mankind and spreading the truths of Christianity.

The realisation of this plan will mainly depend, not on ingenious arguments, but on good-will and ready co-operation.

III.

How can this Physiological Alphabet be applied to existing Languages?

a. To unwritten Languages.

After the explanations contained in the first and second parts, there is little more to be said on this point.

The missionary who tries to write down for the first time a spoken language, should have a thorough knowledge of the physiological alphabet, and have practised it beforehand on his own language or on other dialects the pronunciation of which he knows.

He should try to forget as much as possible the historical orthography of German, English, French, or whatever his language may be, and accustom himself to put down every spoken sound to the nearest physiological category to which it seems to belong. He should first of all try to recognise the principal sounds, guttural, dental, and labial, in the language which he is going to dissect and to depict; and where he is doubtful as to whether he hears a simple or a modified secondary sound, such as have been described in our alphabet, he should always incline to the simple as the more original and general.

He should never be led by etymological impressions. This is a great temptation, but it should be resisted. If we had to write the French word for knee, we should feel inclined, knowing that it sounds ginokyo in Italian and genu in Latin, to write it gĕnu. But the initial palatal sound in French is no longer produced by contact, but by a sibilant flatus, and we should therefore have to write şĕnu. If we had to write down the English sound of knee, we should probably, for the same reason, try to persuade ourselves that we still perceive, in the pronunciation of the n the former presence of the initial k. Still no one but an etymologist would perceive it, and its sound should be represented in the Missionary alphabet by "ni."

After the missionary has written down a number of sentences, he should put them by for a time, and then read them aloud to the natives. If they understand what he reads, and if they understand it even if it is read by somebody else, his work has been successful, and a translation of the Bible carried out on these principles among the Papuas or Khyengs is sure one day to become the basis for the literature of the future.

How can this Physiological Alphabet be applied to existing Languages?

b. To written Languages.

Though this is a question which for the present would hardly come within the compass of missionary labours, still it will be useful to show that, if required, our alphabet would be found applicable to the transliteration of written languages also. Besides, wherever missionary influence is powerful enough, it should certainly be exerted towards breaking down those barriers which, in the shape of different alphabets, prevent the free intercourse of the nations of the East.

Let the philologist and archæologist acquire a knowledge of all these alphabets just as he is bound to learn the alphabets of dead languages or inscriptions. But, where there is no important national literature clinging to a national alphabet, where there are but incipient traces of a reviving civilisation, the multiplicity of alphabets—the only remnant of a bygone civilisation bequeathed, for instance, to the natives of India—should be attacked as zealously by the missionary as the multiplicity of their castes and the multiplicity of their gods. In the Dekhan alone, with hardly any literature of either national or general importance, we have six different alphabets,—the Telugu, Tamil, Canarese, Malabar, Grantham, and Singhalese, all extremely difficult and inconvenient for practical purposes. Likewise, in the northern dialects of India almost every one has its own corruption of the Sanskrit alphabet, sufficiently distinct to make it impossible for a Bengalese to read Guzerati, and for a Mahratta to read Kashmirian letters. Why has no attempt been made to interfere here, and at least to recognise but one Sanskritic alphabet for all the northern, and one Tamulian alphabet for all the southern, languages of India? In the present state of India, it would be bold and wise to go even beyond this. There is very little that deserves to be called a national literature in the modern dialects of the Hindus. The sacred, legal, and poetical literature of India is either Arabic, Persian, or Sanskrit. Little has grown up since, in the spoken languages of the day. Now it would be hopeless, should it ever be attempted, to eradicate the spoken dialects of India, and to supplant them by Persian or English. In a country so little concentrated, so thinly governed, so slightly educated as India, we cannot even touch what we wish to eradicate. If India were laid open by highroads, reduced by railways, and swamped by officials, such an attempt might be conceivable, though, as to anything like success, a trip through Wales, and a glance at the history of Wales and England, would be a sufficient answer. But what might be done in India, perhaps even now, would be to supplant the various native alphabets by Roman letters. How few people in India can write! and those are just the men who are open to Government influence. If the Roman alphabet were taught in the village schools which the Government has much encouraged of late, particularly in the north-western provinces, if all official documents, whatever languages they might be in, had to be transcribed into Roman letters before they had legal value, if the Government would issue all laws and proclamations transcribed in Roman characters, and if the missionaries would do the same with their translations of the Bible and other publications in any of the dialects of India, I think we might live to see one alphabet used from the "snows" to Ceylon.

In countries where there is a growing and living national literature, the experiment to supplant their national alphabet would probably fail; but India is the very country where it might be tried with a fair chance of success.

Let us see, then, how our physiological Missionary alphabet could be applied to languages which have not only an alphabet of their own, but also an established system of orthography.

We have here to admit two new principles:—

First, that in transliterating written languages, every letter, however much its pronunciation may vary, should always be represented by the same Roman type, and that every Roman type should always represent the same foreign letter, whatever its phonetic value may be in different combinations.

Secondly, that every double letter, though in pronunciation it may be simple, should be transliterated by a double letter, and that a single letter, although its pronunciation be that of a double letter, should be transliterated by a single letter.

If these two principles be strictly observed, everybody will be able to translate in his mind a Canarese book, written with Roman letters, back into Canarese letters, without losing a tittle of the peculiar orthography of Canarese. If we attempted to represent the sounds in transcribing literary languages, we should be unable to tell how, in the original, sounds admitting of several graphic representations were represented. In written languages, therefore, we must rest satisfied with transliterating letters, and not attempt to transcribe sounds.

This will cause certain difficulties, particularly in languages where pronunciation and spelling differ considerably. But even in Greek, if we had to transliterate ἐγγύς, we should, no doubt, have to write ʼeggues, which none but a Greek scholar would know how to pronounce correctly (ʼengues). But if, instead of imitating the letters, we attempted to represent their proper pronunciation at a certain period of history, how should we know, for instance, in transcribing the French of the nineteenth century, whether "su" was meant for "sou," halfpenny, or "sous," under, or "soul," tipsy. In historical languages the system of orthography is too important a point to be lost in transcribing, though it is a mistake to imagine that in living languages all etymological understanding would be lost if phonetic reforms were introduced. The change in the pronunciation of words, though it may seem capricious, is more uniform and regular than we imagine; and if all words were written alike according to a certain system of phonetics, we should lose very little more of etymology than we have lost. Nay, in some cases, the etymology would be re-established by a more consistent phonetic spelling. If we wrote "foreign" "forĕn," and "sovereign" "soverĕn," we should not be led to imagine that either was derived from "reign," regnum, and the analogy of such words as "Africĕn" would point out "foranus" or "foraneus" as the proper etymon of "forĕn." But although every nation has the right to reform the orthography of its language, like everything else where usage has too far receded from original intention, still, as long as a literary language maintains its historical spelling, the principle of transliteration must be to represent letter by letter, not sound by sound.

Which letter in our physiological alphabet should be fixed upon as the fittest representative of another letter in Arabic or Sanskrit, in Hindustani or Canarese, depends on a special agreement. If we found that in Sanskrit had in most respects the nature of the guttural semi-vowel, we should have to write it h, even though in some words it may represent the guttural flatus. If ע in Hebrew can be proved to have been originally the same guttural semi-vowel, it will have to be written h, even where we know that it was pronounced as guttural media aspirata (ghain), or not pronounced at all. Likewise, if English were to be transliterated with our alphabet, we should not adopt any of the principles of the "Fonetic Nus;" but here also, if the letter h had been fixed upon as on the whole the fittest representative of the English letter h, we should have to write it even where it was not pronounced at all, as in honest.

It will be the duty of Academies and scientific societies to settle, for the principal languages, which letter of their alphabet could best be expressed by a certain letter in the Missionary alphabet.

The first question to ask would be, taking a type, for instance, of the Sanskrit alphabet, "What is its most usual and most original value?" If that be fixed, the next question would be, "Is there another type which has a better claim to this value?" If so, their claims must be weighed and adjusted; and after it is settled, and after the physiological category is found under which this Sanskrit type would have its proper place, we should then have to look for the exponent of this physiological category in the Missionary alphabet, and henceforth always to transliterate the one by the other.

The following lists will show how Hebrew, Arabic, and Sanskrit might be transliterated. I am aware that objections will be raised on several points, because the original character of several Hebrew and Sanskrit letters has been frequently controverted. If the disputed value of these letters can be clearly settled by argument, be it so; and as soon as it is, there will never be a difficulty to find the exponent of that physiological category to which it has been adjudged. But if there is no chance of settling it by argument, it must be settled by authority or agreement; for, of two views which are equally plausible, we must, for practical purposes, adopt one by choice.

GUTTURALS.

Hebrew. Arabic. Sanskrit.
Which letter comes by its value and origin nearer than any other to the guttural tenuis?
כ kaf ك‎ kaf
Which to the guttural tenuis aspirata?
ח khet ح‎ kha and خ‎ k͏̇ha
{{{1}}} guttural media? ג gimel ج‎ gim
{{{1}}} guttural media aspirata?
{{{1}}} guttural nasal?
{{{1}}} guttural semi-vowel? ע hain ع‎ hain, غ‎ h͏̇ain
{{{1}}} guttural flatus? ה ʽe, א a͏̓lef a͏̔, ا‎ ʼalif Gihvamuliya.

This exhausts the stock of the guttural letters of the general physiological alphabet. The Hebrew ק qof and the Arabic ق‎ qaf will find their natural representative in զ.

The Arabic sign of the guttural tenuis aspirata has been split into two by means of a diacritical dot. Here, and in similar cases where we have to deal with highly cultivated dialects, we are obliged to follow their bad example and distinguish graphically between kha and kh͏̇a. That the pronunciation of these two letters varies, is sufficiently indicated by the dot. How it varies, what is the proper pronunciation of the guttural tenuis aspirata in Arabic and its different provincial dialects, and how it sinks down to a mere flatus in ح‎ kha, must be learnt from the grammar, and by practice. The general pronunciation of the gim in Arabic is certainly palatal. But as its original sound was guttural, and as it has retained this sound in Egypt, and even at Mekkah, we prefer to transliterate it in Arabic by g, leaving the pronunciation in different provinces to be learnt by the ear. If, however, the type ج‎, as representative of the guttural media, is entirely supplanted by a new one, as in Persian, where g is rendered by گ, a modified k, and ج‎ is always the palatal media, g, then we cannot resist the current of alphabetical revolutions, but are forced to transliterate uniformly گ by g, and ج by g.

The guttural semi-vowel in Hebrew was ע hain. That the pronunciation of the guttural semi-vowel may be broader, so as to approach to the aspirated guttural media, and slighter, so as to be lost altogether, has been explained before. In Arabic, the former modification has been fixed graphically by a dot over the hain, and instead of this dotted h͏̇ain it might, perhaps, be allowed to write gh.

PALATALS

Hebrew. Arabic. Sanskrit.
Which letter comes by its value and origin nearer than any other to the palatal tenuis?
Which to the palatal tenuis aspirata?
{{{1}}} palatal media?
{{{1}}} palatal media aspirata?
{{{1}}} palatal nasal?
{{{1}}} palatal semi-vowel? י yod ي‎ ya
{{{1}}} palatal sibilant? שׁ sin شsin

Hebrew and Arabic, which are deficient in palatals, have what we described as compound or secondary palatals; sounds which in Tibetan are marked by diacritical signs added to the palatal types, but which, if their phonetic value had to be represented, should be written as double consonants, ts and ds.

As, however, in Hebrew and Arabic they are represented by single types, they must be transliterated by single types, the tenuis by German z, the media by an English z.

Hebrew צ zade. ז zain. Arabic صzad. ز‎ za.

As the Arabs put a diacritical dot over the zad, we must do the same, and distinguish zad ص‎ from z͏̇ad ض‎. The difference of pronunciation must be learnt from grammars, or from practical intercourse with natives of Arabia, Egypt, or Algiers.

DENTALS.

Hebrew. Arabic. Sanskrit.
Which letter comes by its value and origin nearer than any other to the dental tenuis?
ת tav ت‎ ta ث‎ t͏̇a
Which to the dental tenuis aspirata?
ט theth ط‎ tha ظ‎ t͏̇ha
{{{1}}} dental media? ד dalet د‎ dal, ذ‎ d͏̇al
{{{1}}} dental media aspirata? [ذ‎ dhal]
{{{1}}} dental nasal נ nun ن‎ nun
{{{1}}} dental semi-vowel? ל lamed ل‎ lam
{{{1}}} dental sibilant? שׂ sin ס şamek س‎ sin

The different pronunciation of ta and t͏̇a, tha and t͏̇ha, dal and d͏̇al, must be learnt by practice, as well as the proper sound of th.

LINGUALS.

Hebrew. Arabic. Sanskrit.
Which letter comes by its value and origin nearer than any other to the lingual tenuis?
Which to the lingual tenuis aspirata?
{{{1}}} lingual media?
{{{1}}} lingual media aspirata?
{{{1}}} lingual nasal?
{{{1}}} lingual semi-vowel? ר res ر‎ ra
{{{1}}} lingual sibilant?

LABIALS.

Hebrew. Arabic. Sanskrit.
Which letter comes by its value and origin nearer than any other to labial tenuis?
פּ fe dagesatum
Which to labial tenuis aspirata?
{{{1}}} labial media? ב bet ب‎ ba
{{{1}}} labial media aspirata?
{{{1}}} labial nasal? מ mem م‎ mim
{{{1}}} labial semi-vowel? ו waw و‎ waw
{{{1}}} labial flatus? פ fe ف‎ fa Upadhmaniya

VOWELS.

Hebrew. Arabic. Sanskrit.
Which vowel comes by its value and origin nearer than any other to the guttural a?
ــַـ fatakh ــَـ‎ fatkhah
Which to guttural a? ــׇـ qamez ـَـا
Which to {{{1}}} ĕ?
œ
ــְـ sĕwa
Which to {{{1}}} ŏ? ــְـ sĕwa
Which to palatal i? ــִـ khireq ــِـ‎ kasrah
Which to {{{1}}} i? ـِـيٗ
Which to labial u? וּ, sureq ــُـzammah
Which to {{{1}}} u? ــֻـ qibuz ـٗـوْ
Which to lingual ri?
Which to {{{1}}} ri?
Which to dental li?
Which to {{{1}}} li?
Which to gutturo-palatal e? ــֶـ şegol
Which to gutturo palatal e? ــֵـ zere
Which to gutturo palatal ai? ـَـيْ
Which to gutturo-labial o? ــֳـ qamez khatuf
Which to gutturo labial o? ــֹـ kholem
Which to gutturo labial au? ـَـوْ

If the alphabet is applicable to Arabic and Sanskrit, languages perhaps the most complete in their phonetic systems, it will, probably with slight additions and modifications, be found practical for other languages also. Let it only be distinctly understood to what category a letter in any language originally belonged, and its transliteration will be determined at once. Where the value of a letter is doubtful and fluctuating in a written language, difficulties will naturally arise, particularly where the same alphabet is used for different languages, where, therefore, the process of transcription, or, as in Hindustani, even of transliteration, has taken place before. In Persian, for instance, which is written with Arabic letters, there is hardly any difference in the pronunciation of ʽ and kh (ه and ح): one feels reluctant, therefore, to transliterate ح by kh, particularly as k͏̇h, with the diacritical dot خ, differs much more from ح kh, than ه ʽ differs from ح kh. Still these are inconveniences which will always occur where languages grow and change, while their orthography remains stationary. Such discrepancies between spelling and pronunciation can be removed only by authority, and that authority rests alone with the people who speak and write the language. None, however, stands more in need of phonetic reform than English—none would look stranger whether transcribed or transliterated. For written languages, all that can be done by means of transliteration is to save people the trouble of learning the numerous alphabets of the East. The orthography, however, must be retained, as it has become fixed in the history of every literature; and those who wish to pronounce correctly foreign names of places or persons transliterated according to their proper mode of spelling, must either learn the pronunciation of the language whence they are taken, or be satisfied to pronounce according to the fashion of their own idiom.

These, however, are questions with which the Missionary Societies are not for the present concerned. Literary Societies and Academies will have to settle these points; and, let us hope that they will soon follow the good example which the Missionary Societies of England, Germany, and we may hope America, are going to set them.


Oxford, Christmas, 1853.
MMüller.

THE END.

London:
A. and G. A. Spottiswoode,
New-street-Square.


  1. In a very able article by Professor Heise, in Hoefer's Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft der Sprache, iv. 1. 1853, the following authorities are quoted:—
    • Chladni, Über die Hervorbringung der Menschlichen Sprachlaute, in Gilbert's Annalen der Physik. vol. lxxvi. 1824.
    • A. J. Ribbeck, Über die Bildung der Sprachlaute. Berlin, 1848.
    • K. M. Rapp, Versuch einer Physiologie der Sprache. Stuttgardt, 1836.
    • H. E. Bindseil, Abbandlungen zur Allgemeinen Vergleichenden Sprachlehre. Hamburg, 1838
  2. An article by Johannes Müller is quoted, but without any reference. The subject is treated by Joh. Müller in his Handbuch der Physiologie.

  3. See the Rev. Dr. Krapf's "Outline of the Elements of the Kisuáheli Language:" Tübingen, 1850, page 23.
  4. "Murddhanya," being derived from "murddhan," head or top, was a technical name given to these letters, because their place was the top or highest point in the dome of the palate, the οὐρανος of the Greeks. The proper translation would have been "Cacuminals." "Cerebrals" is wrong in every respect; for no letter has ever been pronounced by means of the brain, nor does "murddhan" mean brain.
  5. See Professor Heise's article in Hoefer's "Journal for the Science of Language."
  6. See "Rules for reducing unwritten Languages," § 5.


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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